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Padre Giovanni Battista MARTINI (1706-1784)
Requiem e Missa Solemnis
Toccata per l’Offertorio [5:09]
Elevazione [4:06]
Post Communio [1:43]
Kyrie-Christe-Kyrie [2:52]
Dopo l’Epistola [0:20]
Dies Irae [8:12]
Offertorio [3:42]
Sanctus [1:01]
Elevazione [4:34]
Agnus Dei [0:54]
Post Communio [2:01]
Toccata [6:44]
Missa Solemnis:-
Kyrie-Christe-Kyrie [2:24]
Gloria [3:44]
Per dopo l’Epistola [0:24]
Alleluia [0:28]
Offertorio [3:07]
Sanctus [0:54]
Elevazione [4:30]
Agnus Dei [0:27]
Post Communio [2:29]
Toccata per il Deo Gratias [2:54]
Elean Sartori (organ), "Melodi Cantores", Decio Biavati, Andrea Favari (soloists), Mirko Maltoni, Mauro Medri, Walid Zogheib/Elena Sartori
Recorded 23rd -25th May 2002, Church of San Michele in Bosco, Bologna, Italy
TACTUS TC701306 [62:39]

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Father Giovanni Battista Martini is one of those people to whom the musical analyst and writer Donald Francis Tovey would probably have referred as an "IHF" or "Interesting Historical Figure". Deeply patronising, of course, but not far from the truth, for Martini’s influence on his contemporaries was far more important than his music, which is unexceptional.

This Franciscan monk was clearly a powerful figure in Bologna – a major musical centre in the early 18th century – and further afield. The twenty-year-old Mozart wrote him a devoted letter, and the chronicler Charles Burney was much taken not only by his musical gifts but by the charm and conviviality of his personality.

Martini was a celebrated organist, which explains the slightly surprising fact that this CD, with its Requiem and Missa Solemnis, consists almost entirely of organ music. In the Requiem, there are short passages of plainchant, presenting straightforwardly some of the main portions of the text, but that is the sum total of vocal involvement throughout. In addition, many of the organ solos are extremely short (just 20 seconds in one instance), so that the whole disc has an inevitably bitty feeling to it.

Clearly, this is liturgical music in the strict sense – music which was wholly subsidiary to the service it accompanied, and intended to do nothing more than oil the wheels of ritual. For that reason, it has to be said that this CD makes fairly unsatisfactory listening, in that much of the music barely makes sense outside its religious context.

However, some of the more developed organ pieces – the Toccata that opens the CD for example, or the delightful Post Communio from the Missa Solemnis - are undoubtedly worth hearing. This last piece has a distinctly Handelian feel to its figuration, while the often sliding chromatic harmonies of the lovely Elevazione in the Requiem, for example, suggest that Martini was exposed to the influence of Vivaldi. Some of the fugues, though mostly pretty conventional, are nevertheless lively and enjoyable, particularly the Post Communi of the Requiem and the Offertorio of the Missa.

Elena Sartori plays with skill and a completely secure sense of style. The booklet gives an English translation of Jolanda Scarpa’s notes about the music, but, inexplicably, not of the biographical note about Miss Sartori. The organ of San Michele is a fine instrument, which Miss Sartori exploits enough to make us aware of its capabilities. This recording is produced lovingly and with much skill, though its contents, it has to be said, are rather specialised.

Gwyn Parry-Jones


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